- Can you give us a brief background of your teaching career?
Rania Lampou : I am a Global educator, STEM instructor, ICT teacher-trainer, neuroeducation researcher, international keynote speaker, author of scientific books for kids and global peace ambassador in Greece. I am also a “Global Teacher Award 2020 & 2021 winner” (AKS Awards) and a “Global Teacher Prize finalist 2019” (Varkey Foundation). Recently, I was selected as “Global Icon 2020” featured in “Passion Vista” Magazine, among the top 10 women entrepreneurs featured in “Fortune” and among the “100 most successful women in business” featured in an Amazon book by “Global Trade Chamber”. My achievements concern my whole educational work and in particular the following domains: education, science, innovation, international projects, research, peace, volunteerism, vulnerable groups, global network of teachers, writing scientific books for kids. My main interest is the combination of STEM with other fields of education such as physics, astronomy and language teaching. I have so far I have received over 130 international awards and distinctions for my school and humanitarian projects. I think that this is the just reward of years of dedicated educational work… However, I do not think that the career of an evolving educator can reach its peak. There are always new challenges and new goals. This is a never-ending process. There are also obstacles that I need to overcome. Currently, I am a STEM instructor at the Greek Astronomy and Space Company (Annex of Salamis) and I am also working at the Greek Ministry of Education, at the Directorate of Educational Technology and Innovation where I write STE(A)M projects for Greek schools.
- When was the first time you became actively involved in STEM?
Rania Lampou : I was appointed in public secondary education in 2009 and after four years I moved to primary education. A significant moment in my career in primary education was my participation as a flexible zone teacher in a very innovative and pioneering science STE(A)M education program organized by the CMS experiment at CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research) which concerns teaching particle physics, and in general modern physics to primary school students. The main challenge I had to face was related to the Greek curriculum which does not include modern physics. I had to redesign the syllabus and be creative. I also used materials that motivated my students’ creativity, such as Lego, clay, cardboards, etc. New technologies, such as 3D printers, made a significant contribution to our project. Children were very enthusiastic about science. A great outcome of the above-mentioned activities is the production of original audio-visual and digital material in the form of educational resources about physics and, in particular, particle physics in collaboration with my students. I think this is a valuable material for a wide range of people. All these school projects have received so far many awards.
Rania Lambrou interview with Dimitris KannavosRania Lambrou interview with Dimitris KannavosRania Lambrou interview with Dimitris KannavosWhat do you think are the key perspectives of STE(Α)M education?
Rania Lampou : First of all, we need to clarify the term STEM. The trend of combinational teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, the so-called STEM has appeared in the last decades. S.T.E.M. projects focus on inquiry and student-led investigations through open-ended real-life problems and hands-on activities empowering students to become ″out-of-the-box″ thinkers and creators. By implementing STEM through projects in education, students acquire critical thinking skills, they are involved in the process of solving authentic problems and learn to collaborate in teamwork. STEM educated students are problem-solvers, innovators, inventors, self-reliant, logical thinkers, technologically literate. Furthermore, we can identify six principles for improving STEM learning. The six principles are the following: learning should be a life-long process, STEM is worth learning, learning should include everyday experiences, educators and students should be involved in research, new technologies should define the content and practices of STEM, broader socio-cultural and political factors should be considered.
Very recently, arts have also been incorporated into STEM teaching, making these projects even more creative and interesting. As a result, the STEM acronym is now becoming STEAM. STEAM is an educational and interdisciplinary approach that aims to promote research spirit, logical thinking and social skills. Emphasis is placed on empirical and exploratory-discovery learning, autonomy and active participation of students, through trial and errors, in a series of interactive projects that incorporate the five fields of STEAM. The acquisition of basic skills through STEAM projects, prepares young people for the future, as STEAM learning is framed in the daily life of young people outside the classroom. STEM Education has at its center the problem solving ideas. Science is everywhere in the world around us. The technology is constantly expanding into every aspect of our lives. STEM provides students with confidence and competence to function effectively as informed citizens that can participate to democratic civic decision-making. These skills are necessary in the 21st century, in order for people to deal with modern life complex situations. These capabilities need to be developed in people from an early age. This is the most effective way of developing complex skills.
However, STEM remains a misleading curriculum concept; it is not an integrated reality in high schools in most countries, and STEM integration is not well understood by teachers. In many projects, the focus is on science and maths, leaving out engineering and technology.
- What are the educational technologies that can promote STEM education?
Rania Lampou : Virtual reality is important in education because it engages students, as it is an immersive technology that it has also been used in game industry. Clickers or key-pads is an interesting classroom technology that allows students to respond, and interact through small hand-held transmitters. Moreover, we can refer to the Flipped classroom. In a flipped classroom, events that have traditionally taken place inside the classroom, now take place outside and vice-versa. There are also the popular Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) which are online courses open to a large audience. MOOCs bring a new perspective to traditional distance education but are still in the early stages. Furthermore, it’s important to highlight the Internet of Things (IoT) which is a network of connected physical real objects with embedded computational and networking capabilities. In addition, there is the Internet of Me that includes smart watches smart clothes, smart glass, head mounted cameras, etc. Wearable technologies have many possible applications in education and training. With wearable technologies learning can happen anywhere and anytime. Finally, cloud computing provides access to resources that can be requested and configured by the user. In education, cloud computing can provide e-learning services, (e.g., virtual worlds, simulations, video streaming), or for MOOCS.
- What are the goals of teacher training in promoting STEM education?
Rania Lampou : One of the most challenging aspects of STEM education is teacher training. The goals of STEM education programs for teachers should be: to reinforce teachers’ core science knowledge, to enhance pedagogical knowledge in teaching integrated STEM with connections to literacy, to improve teachers’ ability for instance to design and conduct experiments.
Furthermore, teachers training should reinforce teachers’ scientific, mathematical, and technological skills and promote students’ 21st century skills such as creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and communication through STEM practices.
- How have your beliefs, motivations and aspirations changed over time?
Rania Lampou : As I mentioned in the beginning, my studies are in the field of pedagogy and neuroeducation. Recently, I wrote an article in the International magazine K-12 Digest which had a great impact all over the world, and it was actually a guide to educators about how to use effective teaching strategies to cope with the pandemic in the classroom, strategies based on the principles of cognitive psychology and neuroeducation. I was appointed in secondary education but when I moved to primary that was a greater blessing for me because young children have a bigger potential, plasticity and creativity. Especially, during the flexible zone, a discipline in the Greek curriculum that allows teachers to implement interdisciplinary, creative projects, teachers can actually work wonders with their students. Within this context, I discovered the magical world of STEM. Since then STEM has been related in my life to my humanitarian and volunteering work. I have spent a great part of my life in volunteerism and humanitarian work, and I am the founder and international coordinator of many humanitarian STEAM international projects that focus on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) described in the 2030 Agenda implemented mostly in Africa and India.
- What are your activities as a STEM instructor at the Greek Astronomy and Space Company?
Rania Lampou : iam an active member of the Greek Astronomy and Space Company (Annex of Salamis) and I participate in the organization and delivery of lectures, seminars, conferences, STEM workshops. The astronomical society and I, we are collaborating towards the popularization of complex concepts of astronomy for the layperson and especially underprivileged children and adults. The goal of these activities is to attract a wide audience, and make astronomy and physics interesting and accessible to children and adults. I believe that astronomy is a very important area of knowledge. It teaches humans how to evaluate their place in the universe and helps us see our lives through a different and more advanced perspective. Furthermore, children and adults are fascinated by astronomy because it can introduce them in an excellent way into other areas of scientific knowledge, too. Therefore, I believe that learning astronomy should start from an early age.
- You are doing a wonderful humanitarian work as a volunteer. Would you like to tell us more about it?
Rania Lampou : An important part of my life is devoted on humanitarian services and social activism, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. I teach as a volunteer in refugee camps, in special education schools and oncological children’s hospitals. I also teach STEM regularly as a volunteer in an oncological children’s hospital. It is very moving to see children in an advanced stage of cancer who suffer from severe depression get excited during the experiments and show enthusiasm and active participation during the sessions. STEM lessons at the Children’s Oncological Hospital-Elpida are a part of a series of lessons called “Life lessons”. Volunteer teachers of “Life lessons” visit children at the hospital and teach them the English language. I am honored to have been invited by the organizer of these lessons to inaugurate a new series of courses concerning STEM and covering all subjects: biology, physics, astronomy, chemistry, etc. Volunteer teachers follow a precise protocol; they are dressed in a red cape symbolizing the protection and love for children who suffer from cancer. It is noteworthy to mention that it’s a big challenge to work with these children who are usually in a high degree of depression and it’s even more difficult to attract their interest.
Furthermore, I volunteer as a STEM educator for refugees who come to Greece in great number, from Syria, Afghanistan, etc. The refugees I visit are in underprivileged areas in Greece, in large camps away from the capital. I also teach as a volunteer in special education schools for children with special needs.
Moreover, I participated in the CPD event organized by Tes/Camfed in order to help Zambian teachers adapt their methods to the demands of the new structures and changes implemented by the Zambian government, changes that encouraged teachers to move towards a more engaging teaching style. The main challenge was to create activities using only the resources available to Zambian students who have limited or no access to pens, pencils, rulers and other school supplies that are common to the western world. During this event, I designed mathematical STEM activities using only the resources available to Zambian schools.
- What are the characteristics of a great teacher leader?
Rania Lampou : My experience as a global educator taught me that a good teacher is a leader as he/she is the one who can restructure the brain of young people, that is, he/she can influence the future. As a neuroeducation researcher, I learned that the human brain is a miracle that should be treated with respect, especially during the everyday teaching practices. Teachers are expected to adopt appropriate roles during the lesson, for a particular context of learning. A real leader teacher is an input provider, a facilitator, a feedback provider, an advisor, a prompter, an organiser, a guider, a story-teller, an evaluator. Ηowever, the most important is the role of teachers in interactive learning. Interaction is the core of communication, since it covers collaborative exchange of thoughts, feelings, or ideas. This interactivity serves the goal of human literacy, which requires students to be humanistic, have communicative skills and creative skills.
- You are an inspiration and global icon for the world now. Please tell us who or what inspires you in everyday life?
Rania Lampou : My main source of inspiration are the children of the oncological hospital who despite their terminal diseases participate in my projects with great enthusiasm. Another group that inspires me are the children of refugees who under the worst imaginable circumstances still want to learn and cultivate their skills. The most inspiring of all are the children from Africa and India who did a great job implementing my international projects and proved their skills to the whole world.